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Single-Ingredient Supply Chain Struggles for Impossible Burgers and Balloons

May 16, 2019 Leave a comment DRI Admin

How does an organization deal with a supply chain failure caused when a major component goes missing? If you’re hoping to sell an Impossible Burger – or fill a balloon – this isn’t a hypothetical question.

If you joined us for DRI2019 in Las Vegas, you may have gotten the chance to try out the Impossible Burger, the meatless, plant-based burger patty developed by Impossible Foods (editorial note: we thought it was pretty delicious). It shouldn’t come as a surprise that as the burger has become more popular, fast food chains would come calling, which is just what happened when the company partnered with Burger King to expand its offerings throughout the U.S. by the end of the year.

Only one problem: a key ingredient in the patty falls outside the regular food supply chain – a protein called Soy Leghemoglobin, which is responsible for the patty’s realistically meat-like appearance and “bleeding” effect when cut into. Production capacity combined with a sharp rise in demand has resulted in a shortage of the protein, though Impossible Foods has announced plans to expand its production line to meet the demand.

In the meantime, this presents a problem for restaurants whose customers aren’t willing to accept a substitute substitute-burger, and smaller customers are struggling to compete with chains that are heavily promoting the Impossible Burger on their menus – including Burger King, White Castle, and Red Robin.

A shortage of a different sort could have impacts more far-reaching than lunch options – a global helium shortage. Attention immediately goes to the party supply stores and how they plan to fill their balloons, but helium is part of the development in everything from smartphones to space shuttles.

The big problem? It’s a non-renewable resource that’s currently being used up faster than it can be produced. The U.S. used to be the world’s largest helium producer, but ran into debt storing the gas, and sold off its reserves in the late 1990s. Currently Qatar produced about 75% of the world’s supply, but a blockade in 2017 forced a halt in exports.

These items represent supply chain challenges without easy answers for BCM professionals: how to develop contingencies when seemingly irreplaceable ingredients are no longer available.

Want to get out in front of potential supply chain issues? DRI’s online Business Continuity for Supply Chain Management (BCP Supply) course covers strategies for managing business continuity in your supply chain and teaches you how to apply supply chain management (SCM) to your business continuity program. The course’s multimedia format offers dynamic, interactive content that will engage you and make web-based learning more fun and effective than ever before. Click here for more information.